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Solemnity of the Epiphany of Our Lord 2016

Pope Francis's Homily at Holy Mass     
St Peter's Basilica, Wednesday, 6 January 2016 - in ArabicEnglish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

“The words of the Prophet Isaiah – addressed to the Holy City of Jerusalem – are also meant for us.  They call us to rise and go forth, to leave behind all that keeps us self-enclosed, to go out from ourselves and to recognize the splendour of the light which illuminates our lives: “Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you” (60,1).  That “light” is the glory of the Lord.  The Church cannot illude herself that she shines with her own light.  Saint Ambrose expresses this nicely by presenting the moon as a metaphor for the Church: “The moon is in fact the Church… [she] shines not with her own light, but with the light of Christ.  She draws her brightness from the Sun of Justice, and so she can say: ‘It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me’” (Hexaemeron, IV, 8, 32).  Christ is the true light shining in the darkness. To the extent that the Church remains anchored in Him, to the extent that she lets herself be illuminated by Him, she is able to bring light into the lives of persons and peoples.  For this reason the Fathers of the Church recognised in the Church the "mysterium lunae".

We need this light which comes from on high so as to correspond in a way coherent with the vocation that we have received.  To proclaim the Gospel of Christ is not simply one option among many, nor is it a profession.  For the Church, to be missionary does not mean to proselytize: for the Church to be missionary means to give expression to her very nature, which is to receive God’s light and then to reflect it.  This is her service.  There is no other way.  Mission is her vocation; to shine Christ’s light is her service.  How many people look to us for this missionary commitment, because they have need of Christ, they have need to know the face of the Father.

The Magi mentioned in the Gospel of Matthew are a living witness to the fact that the seeds of truth are present everywhere, for they are the gift of the Creator, who calls all people to acknowledge him as the good and faithful Father.  The Magi represent the people of every part of the world who are welcomed into the house of God.  Before Jesus, all divisions of race, language and culture disappear: in that Child, all humanity discovers its unity.  The Church has the task of seeing and showing ever more clearly the desire for God which each person carried within them.  This is the service of the Church, with the light that she reflects: to draw out the desire for God present in every heart.  Like the Magi, countless people, in our own day, have a “restless heart” which continues to seek without finding sure answers – it is the restlessness of the Holy Spirit that stirs in hearts.  They too are looking for a star to show them the path to Bethlehem.

How many stars there are in the sky!  And yet the Magi followed a new and different star, which for them shone all the more brightly.  They had long peered into the great book of the heavens, seeking an answer to their questions – they had restless hearts –, and at long last the light appeared.  That star changed them.  It made them leave their daily concerns behind and set out immediately on a journey.  They listened to a voice deep within, which led them to follow that light - it was the voice of the Holy Spirit, who works in all persons -; and it guided them, until they found the King of the Jews in a poor dwelling in Bethlehem.

All this has something to say to us today.  We do well to repeat the question asked by the Magi: “Where is the child who has been born the King of the Jews?  For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage” (Mt 2, 2).  We are impelled, especially in an age like our own, to seek the signs which God offers us, realizing that great effort is needed to interpret them and thus to understand his will.  We are challenged to go to Bethlehem, to find the Child and his Mother.  Let us follow the light which God offers us – a little light ...; the hymn in the breviary poetically tells us that the Magi "lumen requirunt lumine" – this little light -, the light which emanates from the face of Christ, full of mercy and fidelity.  And once we have found Him, let us adore Him with all our hearts, and present Him with our gifts: our freedom, our understanding, our love.  True wisdom lies concealed in the face of this Child.  It is here, in the simplicity of Bethlehem, that the life of the Church is summed up.  For here is the wellspring of that light which draws to itself every person in the world and orientates the pathway of the peoples along the way of peace."

Papa Francesco's words at the Angelus in St Peter's Square
6 January 2016 - also in Arabic, Croatian, French, German, Italian & Portuguese

"Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
In today’s Gospel, the narrative of the Magi, coming from the East to Bethlehem to adore the Messiah, conveys a breath of universality to the Feast of the Epiphany. This is the breath of the Church, who wants all peoples of the earth to be able to encounter Jesus, to experience his merciful love. This is the desire of the Church: that they may find the mercy of Jesus, his love.

Christ is newly born, he does not yet know how to speak, and all the peoples — represented by the Magi — can meet him, recognize him, adore him. The Wise Men said: “We have seen his star in the East, and have come to worship him” (Mt 2, 2). Herod heard this as soon as the Magi arrived in Jerusalem. These Wise Men were prestigious men, from a distant region and different culture, and they were journeying to the land of Israel so as to adore the king who had been born. The Church has always seen in them the image of the whole of humanity, and with today’s celebration of the Feast of the Epiphany, the Church wishes as if to indicate respectfully to every man and every woman of this world the Babe who is born for the salvation of all.

On the night of Christmas Jesus manifested himself to shepherds, humble and scorned men — some say brigands -; they were the first to bring a little warmth to that cold cave in Bethlehem. Then the Magi arrived from faraway lands. They too were mysteriously drawn by that Child. The shepherds and the Wise Men were very different from each other; however, they had one thing in common: heaven. The shepherds of Bethlehem immediately hastened to see Jesus, not because they were particularly good, but because they kept watch in the night and, raising their eyes to heaven, they saw a sign, they heard its message and followed it. It was the same for the Magi: they observed the heavens, saw a new star, interpreted the sign and set out on their journey, from afar. The shepherds and the Wise Men teach us that in order to encounter Jesus it is necessary to be able to lift our gaze to heaven, not to withdraw into ourselves, into our own selfishness, but to have our hearts and minds open to the horizons of God, who always surprises us, to know how to welcome his messages and respond with readiness and generosity.

The Magi, the Gospel says, “at the sight of the star, they rejoiced exceedingly” (Mt 2, 10). For us too, there is great comfort in seeing the star, in other words in feeling guided and not abandoned to our destiny. The star is the Gospel, the Word of the Lord, as the Psalm states: “Thy word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (119[118]: 105). This light guides us to Christ. Without listening to the Gospel, it is not possible to encounter Him! The Wise Men, indeed, by following the star arrived at the place where they found Jesus. Here “they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and adored him” (Mt 2, 11). The experience of the Magi exhorts us not to be satisfied with mediocrity, not to “subsist”, but to seek the meaning of things, with passion to search for the great mystery of life. And it teaches us not to be scandalized by smallness and poverty, but to recognize majesty in humility, and to know how to kneel before it.

May the Virgin Mary, who welcomed the Wise Men in Bethlehem, help us to lift our gaze from ourselves, to let ourselves to be guided by the star of the Gospel so as to encounter Jesus, and to know how to humble ourselves so as to adore Him. In this way we will be able to bring to others a ray of his light, and to share with them the joy of the pathway."

After the Angelus:

"Dear brothers and sisters, today let us express our spiritual closeness to our Christian brothers and sisters of the East, Catholics and Orthodox, many of whom will celebrate the Birth of the Lord tomorrow. May our wishes of peace and good will reach them, along with a nice round of applause as a greeting!

Let us also remember that the Epiphany is the World Day for Missionary Childhood. It is the feast of the children who, through their prayers and sacrifices, help their neediest peers by being missionaries and witnesses of brotherhood and sharing.

I express my warm greeting to all of you, individual pilgrims, families, parish groups and associations, from Italy and from various countries.In particolare saluto i fedeli di Acerra, Modena e Terlizzi; la Scuola di arte sacra di Firenze; i giovani del Campo internazionale del Lions Club.

Un saluto speciale a quanti danno vita al corteo storico-folcloristico, dedicato quest’anno al territorio della Valle dell’Amaseno. Desidero ricordare anche il corteo dei Magi che si svolge in numerose città della Polonia con larga partecipazione di famiglie e associazioni; come pure il presepe vivente realizzato al Campidoglio dall’UNITALSI e dai Frati Minori coinvolgendo le persone con disabilità.

I wish a happy feast day to all. Please do not forget to pray for me. Enjoy your lunch. Arrivederci!"